Major Changes to Reykjavík Bus Routes

Strætó bus Reykjavík miðborgin umferð fólk

There will be major changes to Reykjavík bus routes in the coming months due to construction at Hlemmur, the main bus terminal in downtown Reykjavík. All bus routes in the area will be temporarily diverted and new end stops will be implemented on each route. When construction is complete, only four bus routes will stop at Hlemmur and there will be no central end stop for Reykjavík bus routes.

End stops move to Grandi, Skúlagata, and the University of Iceland

A notice from Reykjavík public bus service operator Strætó outlines the changes to routes due to the construction at Hlemmur. The end stops of routes 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 16, 17 and 18 will move from Hlemmur to Skúlagata, Grandi and HÍ (University of Iceland).

Route 3 will use Grandi as an end stop. Routes 1, 4, 16, 17 and 18 will temporarily make their final stop in Skúlagata street, a new terminal station in the city. Routes 2 and 6 will temporarily end at the University of Iceland. All of the new routes can be seen in detail on the Strætó website.

Read more about public transport funding in Iceland and Reykjavík’s planned Borgarlína bus rapid transit system.

Residents, Landvernd Protest Proposed Land Reclamation and Development Project

Both residents of the Skerjafjörður neighbourhood in Reykjavík and Landvernd, the Icelandic Environment Association, have levelled strong protests against the City of Reykjavík’s proposal for a new, 4.3-hectare [10.6-acre] land extension to a stretch of local shoreline known by some locals as Shell Beach, Fréttablaðið reports. The city argues the extension is necessary to support a proposed adjoining residential neighbourhood, ‘New Skerjafjörður,’ which will be home to as many as 1,300 new residents. But opponents say that such development plans would increase pollution and traffic, as well as destroy a unique ecosystem and popular recreational area.

The Proposed Site. Screenshot from Preliminary Assessment Report on Land Fill in New Skerjafjörður, City of Reykjavík

Per the city’s 95-page report on the proposed project, land fill would be used to build up a 700-meter [.43-mi] stretch of the existing beach and also extend the shore 100 meters further into the sea. However, the site is currently home to mudflats which are protected under nature conservation law. The city contends that the mudflats would not be destroyed but rather would be able to regenerate after the initial construction. “The coastline will be shaped such that it looks like a natural beach and endeavours will be made to ensure that mudflats can reform in place of those that will be disturbed,” reads the report. The project is said to be “…part of the densification of populated areas and the construction of new neighbourhoods in the southwestern part of the city, in accordance with the Reykjavík Municipal Plan, 2010 – 2030.” The area is very popular amongst walkers and cyclists but although there would be some disruption to these activities while the landfill is created, the city says, the disruption would be not be significant and will allow for new paths and recreational areas to be built on the site.

See Also: City Council Approves New 102 Reykjavík Postcode

The project was posted and open for public comment until January 25th. During this period, it received considerable negative feedback from constituents.

“It should be clear to everyone that the land reclamation and planned structures will have a significant and negative impact on the landscape and its appearance,” wrote Landvernd in a public comment on the project. The association said that the project will result in a “man-made stone structure…it’s difficult to make a convincing argument for the societal need to spoil mudflats like these, which there are few left of in the capital area.”

Another commenter on the project was engineer Sigurður Áss Grétarsson, who worked for the Icelandic Road Administration for a long time and also oversaw the construction of the Landeyjahöfn harbour in South Iceland. Citing a report by a city conservationist, Sigurður noted that the beach has remained largely unchanged since the 19th century, and hasn’t already been disturbed, as the city has suggested. He also said that the proposed undersea wall that is supposed to help with the regeneration of the mudflats is too narrow to actually break waves and do any good.

“If the intention is to destroy the mudflats, then the city should just say it straight out,” he wrote, “instead of being deceptive and throwing dust in people’s eyes.”

See Also: New Neighbourhood By Reykjavík Airport to Prioritise Pedestrians

At time of writing, an online petition to “Save Skerjafjörður” had 528 signatures. “The proposed site is one of the few remaining natural areas in Reykjavik [sic],” reads the petition text. “It is one of the few such areas easily accessible to lower-income residents of the city (i.e. those without cars) such as the students in the nearby dormitories and newly built housing complexes. Tourists and summer visitors enjoy this small bay, whose clay bottom makes it a unique ecosystem, unlike the rocky shore that borders it, one of the few remaining bits of natural shore in the city. It is among the first areas to provide a sheltered home to migratory birds (the oyster-catchers and golden plover have already arrived). School groups, cyclists, and marathon runners appreciate the beauty of the path through this area. At no time have more people enjoyed it than in this time of Covid. Once destroyed, this charming natural shore can never be re-created. Human attempts to ‘rebuild’ natural scenerios [sic] are doomed to failure.”

A visualization of the proposed new residential neighborhood, New Skerjafjörður. Screenshot from Preliminary Assessment Report on Land Fill in New Skerjafjörður, City of Reykjavík

The petition also calls into question the new residential neighborhood, which, the petitioners say, “will put even more stress on existing streets that can barely handle the traffic they have to deal with, and the cars will add to the pollution in a city that already has too much.” They question whether so many people would even want to live in New Skerjafjörður, as the plans for the neighborhood were developed prior to the COVID pandemic, which “has made a lot of people re-think their ideas about where and how it is best to live, and companies re-think the possibilities of having employees work at home. It is no longer necessary that everyone live as close as possible to their place of employment, or that these places of employment be centrally located.”

There are also future risks to consider, write the petitioners. “In times of climate change, any building along the coast is unadvisable [sic]. With rising sea-levels, coastal buildings will be at risk of flooding within a generation or two.”

The period for public comment on the project has now closed.

Permanent Car-Free Zones Approved on Three Downtown Streets

The City of Reykjavík’s environment and planning committee has voted to keep sections of three downtown streets permanently car-free, RÚV reports. Laugavegur, Skólavörðustígur, and Vegamótastígur will now all have pedestrian-only zones all year.

The vote was approved with votes from members of the Social Democratic Alliance, the Reform Party, the Pirate Party, and two out of three of the committee’s Independence Party members, Hildur Björnsdóttir and Katrín Atladóttir.

Hildur and Katrín’s Independence Party colleague, Marta Guðjónsdóttir, voted against the proposal saying that downtown business owners are opposed to year-round traffic closures, which contribute, she asserted, to their ongoing struggle to remain open and solvent. For their part, Hildur and Katrín said that the new car-free streets must be managed in consultation with pedestrians, shop owners, and stakeholders. “A lack of cooperation over major construction developments, constant property tax increases, wage increases, and the rise of online shopping are among the things that have created difficulties for shop owners in downtown Reykjavík,” they said.

Taking into account feedback from said stakeholders, the project will be divided into nine sections. This means that the permanent car-free zones will actually be less expensive and less disruptive to local businesses than was thought when the plan was originally proposed.

Proposed Construction Project on Laugavegur

The corner of Laugavegur and Vitastígur

A proposed construction project would transform on the corner of Laugavegur and Vatnsstígur in the city centre. Some old buildings will be replaced by up to 4,000 m2 in new buildings and others will be renovated. Up to 56 hotel apartments are planned. If approved, construction could start as early as next spring.

Laugavegur, the city’s main shopping street and the heart of the city centre, has been the location of plenty of construction for the past few years. The next big construction project and the last in a series of planned renovations is the corner of Laugavegur and Vatnsstígur.

The city council has agreed to advertise a land-use plan proposal for the area, which includes apartments, accommodation and other services. About 4000 sqm will be built above-ground and 600 sqm will be renovated in existing buildings. The project is designed by Zeppelin Architects.

The buildings on Laugavegur 35 and 37 will be renovated and extended, a storey will be added to each of them.

The bulk of the new buildings will be on the Vatnsstígur side of the plot. Vatsstígur 4 will be torn down but the building was destroyed in a fire about ten years ago. The replacement building will feature 10-12 apartments, on three storeys as well as an attic with a mansard style roof and a car park in the basement. Laugavegur 33a will also be tor down.

Orri Árnason, an architect with Zeppelin Architects told RúV: “ I think this will be a big change for the better. I think we can all agree on that. It will look much cleaner and hopefully, there’ll be more life here. We’ll get two new squares, which will probably have something fun going on.”

The land-use plan is yet to be approved but Orri hopes that construction can begin in the spring.

City of Reykjavík Plants Himalayan Palms in Laugardalur

City horticulturists have planted five palm trees in the Laugardalur neighbourhood on the east side of Reykjavík, Vísir reports. The aim of this perhaps unusual landscaping choice is to investigate how these plants respond to Icelandic weather conditions. The palm variety chosen for the experiment are from the Himalayas and therefore better suited to colder temperatures.

According to an announcement on the City of Reykjavík website, the five palms were planted in a sheltered spot along Sunnuvegur road and will be closely monitored through the coming winter. The experiment was initiated by horticulturists Guðlaug Guðjónsdóttir and Hannes Þór Hafsteinsson, who are leading efforts to diversify plant life in the city.

Reykjavík palm trees
[/media-credit] The plan for Vogabyggð neighbourhood includes two palm trees housed in glass tubes.

The palm-planting experiment is particularly interesting in light of the somewhat controversial plans put forth by the city in January to add two palm trees housed in heated glass tubes to the landscaping plans for the new Vogabyggð neighbourhood on the east side of the city. The cost of planting and housing the two trees was projected at ISK 140 million ($1.2m/€1m), or 1% of the total cost of the neighbourhood’s construction. According to Karin Sander, the artist behind the tropical design, her intention was to bring a bit of southerly flavour to the neighbourhood residents’ daily life.

“Instead of taking a tree from Norway, we take a tree that brings to mind summer holidays, beaches, and leisure,” she explained at the time. “We’re not only bringing the trees but also the climate to Iceland.”

Parking Lot Becomes Harbourside Park

Miðbakkinn, a former parking lot along the Reykjavík waterfront that has been converted into a public space for families, was opened during a public ceremony on Friday, Vísir reports.

Miðbakkinn includes a children’s cycling area, a skate park, and a basketball court. Its skate park was designed in collaboration with Steinar Fjeldsted, a skateboarder and graffiti artist who runs a skateboarding school in Reykjavík, and Sesselja Traustadóttir, a cycling educator and activist, designed the cycling area. Young artists were commissioned to paint the ground murals, which feature a giant crab, fish, and a sailor’s knot.

Friday’s celebration featured musical performances and food trucks, both of which will return for Iceland’s first street fair, which will take place at Miðbakkinn from July 19 – 21. The fair will also have pop-up shops, coffee stalls, and scheduled entertainment.

“I think this will be a very lively and fun area which was, of course, a parking lot, but has now become part of city residents’ public space” remarked Sigurborg Ósk Haraldsdóttir, the chair of the City of Reykjavík’s planning committee. “Because it’s not going to go back to being a parking lot…the idea is that, over time, it will have permanent facilities for these kinds of sports and other kinds of harbourside activities.”

City to Install Over Two Kilometres of New Cycling Paths This Summer

The City of Reykjavík plans to lay 2.4 km [1.5 mi] of new and/or improved cycling paths in Reykjavík this summer, RÚV reports. The new lanes, which will cost an estimated ISK 530 million [$4.3 million; €3.8 million] to install, will be separated from both pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

According to the announcement posted on the City of Reykjavík’s website, there will be six new paths in total. These will include:

  • Along Eiðsgrandi from the Seltjarnarnes city limit to the gas station at Keilugrandi
  • On Bústaðavegur between Háaleitisbraut and the bridge that crosses Kringlumýrarbraut
  • Within the Elliðaárdalur Valley: from Stekkjarbakki to the path along Fagrahvammur
  • Also within the Elliðaárdalur Valley: repairs to the existing path between Reykjanesbraut and Höfðabakki
  • Along Geirsgata (starting at Miðbakki) between Lækjargata and Pósthæusstræti
  • Within the Víðidalur Valley: new walking and cycling paths from Vallarás to where the Elliðaárdalur Valley’s trail network begins at Klapparás

The cost of the new paths will be split between the City of Reykjavík and the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, with the government putting ISK 450 million [$3.6 million; €3.2 million] towards the project and the Road and Coastal Administration contributing the remaining ISK 80 million [$647,200; €570,645].

Research shows that as the path network has improved, an increasing number of people have begun cycling in Reykjavík. There are a number of indicators of this. For one, the use of electric bikes has quadrupled in Iceland over the last year. Then there were 36,000 cycling trips counted in and around Nauthólsvík in May, which is a new record-high for Reykjavík. Before this, the highest number of cycling trips counted in the same area was 30,000 in August 2018.

Reykjavík to Reduce Gas Stations by Half by 2025

Reykjavík is set to dramatically reduce the number of gas stations in the city by 2030, Vísir reports. Currently, there are 75 gas stations in the capital area, but Reykjavík City Council has approved plans to reduce these to around 37 in the next six years as part of its environmental initiatives.

Mayor Dagur B. Eggertson announced the plan on his Facebook page this week, saying that the gas stations will be replaced with apartment buildings, shops, and other services. Originally, the city had intended to meet this goal by 2030, but Dagur noted that the City Council liked the initiative so much that everyone agreed to comply with a tighter deadline.

Reykjavík’s climate plan foresees gas stations largely disappearing from the city by 2040 and that vehicular traffic and public transportation will also be greenhouse emission-free by the same time. Current projections are that private cars will account for 58% of transportation by 2030, while public transportation will account for 12% and cycling 30%.

New Hlemmur Square May Be Car Free

City planning officials in Reykjavík are considering the possibility of closing the area around Hlemmur Square to traffic. Mbl.is reports that construction on the rapidly changing square, which is being developed to include more commercial and public space, will begin next year.

The current proposal would see Laugavegur closed south of Hlemmur to private cars between Rauðarárstígur and Snorrabraut. Private vehicle traffic would also be closed in sections east of the square, up to Katrínartún, where the Fíladelfía Pentecostal church is located. This proposal would also see the police station, which is currently located on Hlemmur Square, moved to a new location. An alternative version of this plan would close the area to public buses as well.

Closing these areas to car traffic would mean improved access for pedestrians, which makes sense in that the newly improved Hlemmur Square will no longer be a transportation hub, but will instead become one of the city’s prime shopping centers, including space for food trucks and market stalls.

Changing Lanes, Part 3: The Future of Urban Planning in Reykjavík

housing Reykjavík

At the beginning of the 20th century, only 8,221 called the northernmost capital city in the world home. That number now stands at 217,711 people, and Reykjavík’s population has grown by 37% since 1998. Unlike many of its European counterparts, you’d be hard-pressed to find rows of houses built earlier than the 19th century. The […]

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